Locals inspect the wrecked site in Chamoli.
Per usual, Mahatami Devi, 42, went to fetch firewood and cattle fodder from the neighboring Raini village. She was a resident of Jugnu village. One of her 3 sons, 17-year-old Ankit, was home at the time. She met the former gram panchayat member, Sangram Singh at 8 am while on her way downhill. Sangram Singh was headed uphill with 3 men to carve a pagdandi (pathway) in Raini.
Singh says, "An hour later, there was a loud, thundering sound. When we looked up, the clear blue sky had turned grey. And then, we heard Ankit screaming, 'Save my mother'. A wall of water came surging through the hills, sweeping with it everything that came in its way - people, cattle, trees. We could do nothing."
Anita Devi, 70, from Raini Chuksa village was busy grazing cattle. She was accompanied by her daughter-in-law, Tanuja, and grandson, Golu. Anita Devi was unaware when the debris-laden fierce Dhauliganga raged through Raini. Tanuja and Golu managed to run away when they heard the thundering sound.
A fellow villager, Kundan Singh, 42, states, "Anita Devi was left behind. We saw the river swallow her as she stood there, helpless."
The people uphill watched powerless, as their loved ones were carried off by the river. The people screamed, "Bhaago." However, nature was too strong. The air was thick and pungent. Neither could they breathe, nor run faster.
About half an hour later, the village elders decided to go downhill, looking for missing people.
Sangram said, "What we saw was horrifying. Where we had seen people working hours ago - cutting wood, grazing cattle - there was a swamp of debris. Not one of our people could be spotted."
Kundan Singh's nephew was among those who went missing. Kundan said, "He had taken around 150 goats for grazing. He has gone missing."
Most of the bridges which connect nearby villages have been washed away. This has caused inaccessibility for many laborers and their families to go back home. Kundan is hosting around 20 of them at his home.
Kundan and Sangram have been actively raising their voices against the hydropower projects in the geologically fragile region.
Global warming might have also played a major role in the bursting of a glacier in Uttarakhand in the cold month of February. The knowledge of the exact cause for the glacier break off is still under process.